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Two claim sexual abuse by former Red Sox staffer

By Scott Malone

BOSTON (Reuters) - Two men came forward on Monday to accuse a now-deceased Red Sox official of sexually abusing them two decades ago when they were teenagers working for the baseball team.

They are the ninth and tenth people to charge former clubhouse manager Donald Fitzpatrick, who died in 2005, with victimizing them while they worked at a job that for many American teens would be a dream -- cleaning up the baseball team's locker room and running errands for the players.

The pair, who retained high-profile Boston lawyer Mitchell Garabedian, each seek $5 million in compensation from the team for the abuse, which occurred during the 1990-1991 baseball season.

"This is one of the biggest secrets I've held in my life," self-described victim Charles Crawford, 36, told a news conference. "It's always been in the back of my mind."

Crawford and the other victim, who did not identify himself publicly, came forward in the wake of a similar scandal at Penn State, where a former assistant football coach has been accused of sexually abusing young boys.

"It's Penn State all over again," said Garabedian, who has also represented people sexually abused by Catholic priests. "Is there no accountability? Baseball is not more important than protecting the lives of innocent children against predators."

Garabedian said he is negotiating with the team on the two men's behalf but will not file a lawsuit as the statute of limitations on the incident has passed. He added that he had been contacted by a third victim whom he may also represent.

"The Red Sox have always viewed the actions of Mr. Fitzpatrick to be abhorrent. When the team, then under a previous ownership group, became aware of the allegations against Mr. Fitzpatrick in 1991, he was promptly relieved of his duties," said an attorney for the Red Sox, Daniel Goldberg of Bingham McCutchen, in a statement.

"The Club is unaware of any specifics regarding the matters brought forward recently by two individuals but, given the sensitive nature of the matter, will not have further comment."

The Red Sox fired Fitzpatrick in 1991 after another victim held up a sign at a televised ballgame played in California accusing Fitzpatrick of abuse.

The team in 2003 paid a $3.15 million legal settlement to seven Florida men who alleged Fitzpatrick abused them during the team's spring training sessions in the 1970s. Fitzpatrick pleaded guilty to charges in connection with that case in 2002.

Crawford said Fitzpatrick had abused him twice, first fondling him in an equipment room of the team's locker room, then performing oral sex on him in a nearby bathroom.

Crawford, whose job had him sweeping up the locker room and laundering players' uniforms on the days of home games, said neither he nor his friend were called back to work after the 1991 televised sign incident.

"Why did no one come to look for us because we worked with him?" Crawford said. "I think ... they knew but no one cared."

(Editing by Jerry Norton and Peter Bohan)

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